Jonathan Turley: Congress May Have Restrained Capitol Police to Preserve False Lafayette Park Narrative

US President Donald Trump walks back to the White House escorted by the Secret Service after appearing outside of St John's Episcopal church across Lafayette Park in Washington, DC on June 1, 2020. - US President Donald Trump was due to make a televised address to the nation on Monday …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley argued Wednesday that Congress may have prevented the U.S. Capitol Police from preparing for the January 6 riot to protect a false narrative about the reason Lafayette Square was cleared after riots in 2020.

Turley referred to an internal report by Capitol Police Inspector General Michael A. Bolton that revealed the force declined to deploy its Civil Disturbance Unit, and was ordered not to use the most powerful means at its disposal to disperse crowds.

The report apparently confirmed that there was a reluctance to send the National Guard to assist the Capitol Police due to “optics.” The Capitol Police report to the leadership of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Turley noted that Democrats and the media had promoted the false claim that President Donald Trump had used tear gas to clear “peaceful protesters” from Lafayette Square so that he could walk across it for a “photo-op” at the church across the street.

The Black Lives Matter protest at Lafayette Square, across from the White House, had included a riot that resulted in injuries to dozens of police officers. Journalists — including one from Breitbart News — were assaulted by those in the square.

Then-President-elect Joe Biden repeated the false claim on January 7, in the aftermath of the Capitol riot. As Breitbart News noted at the time, Biden recycled several false statements about Lafayette Square that he and his party used throughout 2020.

Turley noted that Attorney General William Barr had already ordered countermeasures — including perimeter fencing — before Trump’s walk across the park. He argued further that Congress seems to have restrained itself from deploying that fencing, or using the National Guard, precisely because it did not want to contradict the false Lafayette Square narrative:

To this day, the media and many members continue to repeat false accounts of the Lafayette Park. Many still have stories posted that claim that Lafayette Park was cleared for Trump to hold a photo op in front of a church. I discussed those accounts in testimony before Congress and in columns on the clearing of the Lafayette Park area. NPR still has a story on its website entitled “Peaceful Protesters Tear-Gassed To Clear Way For Trump Church Photo-Op.”

A wide array of witnesses and documents detailed how the plan to clear the area was put into motion over 24 hours before the actual operation — and long before any discussion of a photo op.  The plan was approved by then Attorney General Bill Barr but was delayed because the officers were waiting for both fencing material and back-up personnel.

Both the media and members are heavily invested in the Lafayette Park narrative. It would be embarrassing to report that the Congress should have ordered the same expansion of a fenced perimeter and guard deployment before the protests — let alone the use of non-lethal devices like pepper balls.

The question is whether that narrative influenced the restrictions placed on the Capitol Police. It was only after losing control of Congress that a full deployment of fencing, riot resources, and the National Guard was allowed. It then remained up for months at a huge daily cost. It was the ultimate example of locking the barn door after the horse had bolted. But in Washington, it is not really about horse or the barn. It is about who gets the blame.

Read Turley’s full article here.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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